Brexit: Spain to Seek Co-Sovereignty on Gibraltar

Gibraltar EU referendum voters
People wait in line to cast their ballots during the EU referendum at a polling station in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, historically claimed by Spain, June 23. Jon Nazca/Reuters

Spain will seek co-sovereignty on Gibraltar following Britain's vote to leave the European Union, acting foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said Friday, saying the vote completely changed the outlook on the future of the peninsula.

The small peninsula off the south coast of Spain, a British Overseas Territory since 1713 and known to its 30,000 residents as "the Rock", is a major point of contention in Anglo-Spanish relations.

"It's a complete change of outlook that opens up new possibilities on Gibraltar not seen for a very long time. I hope the formula of co-sovereignity—to be clear, the Spanish flag on the Rock—is much closer than before," he said.

A spokesman for Gibraltar's government declined to comment on the Brexit vote and referred to previous statements made on how co-sovereignty had already been rejected by around 99 percent of Gibraltarians in a previous local referendum.

Spain will push for Gibraltar to stay out of any general negotiations with the European Union following Britain's exit from the bloc and will aim for bilateral talks to seek co-sovereignty and eventually Spanish control of the peninsula, Garcia-Margallo said.

Gibraltar voted overwhelmingly in favour of Britain remaining in the European Union on a large turnout in the first result of the EU referendum vote count on Thursday evening.

The majority of those living in Gibraltar are British citizens with British passports, although thousands of Spaniards cross from mainland Spain to work on the peninsula every day.

Spain's acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Friday that Britain's vote to leave the EU would not affect the rights of these Spanish workers, who he said would be able to continue to move freely between the two territories.

Spain itself is facing an election on Sunday, its second in six months after an inconclusive vote in December. Polls forecast a fragmented result with no clear winner, potentially leading to weeks of negotiations over the formation of a coalition government.